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Daily Journal
     June 19, 2020      #30-171 KDJ

Private donors step up and Fourth of July

By Lee Provost

KANKAKEE — In a spring and summer filled with event cancellations, here is a welcomed twist: The annual 4th of July fireworks show is back on schedule.

In a late Wednesday afternoon press release from Kankakee Valley Park District Executive Director Dayna Heitz, it was announced that the fireworks show will be held thanks to a group of private donors led by Kankakee County Board Chairman Andy Wheeler.

Wheeler led a contingent of private donors to raise $15,000 to bring the show — which canceled about one month ago when the Kankakee City Council voted to fund a show due to the coronavirus-fueled economic slowdown — back to the county. The fireworks show will be held in its usual setting along the Kankakee River near the Kankakee Community College campus.

The new show, "The Kankakee Valley Park District Presents: Chairman Andrew Wheeler's 4th of Drive-In Fireworks Celebration," will be free to the public.

In all, 35 sponsors agreed to help fund the show.

Wheeler said the 16-minute show will be a drive-in show because of the conditions public gatherings must follow due to the COVID-19 situation as part of the Phase 3 designation currently placed on the county.

If the show cannot take place on July 4, a rain date has been set for July 5.

Because it is a "drive-in" show, the public is being asked to park their vehicles at either Beckman Park, River Road Park and fields, or Ice Arena lots and fields. People are being asked to remain in their vehicles during the show.

Food vending, the traditional Kankakee Valley Symphony Orchestra program and close gathering of people will not be part of this year's event due to the coronavirus. If the Kankakee County region is granted Phase 4 status prior to the event, rules regarding interaction could change.

Wheeler said once it was clear the community was going to be without a show this year, he stepped in to make sure the mid-summer celebration would go on.

"After everything this community has been through over the past few months, it just didn't sit well with me that there were not going to be any fireworks displays this year again," he said.

Wheeler, whose District 15 county board seat represents the area in and around Beckman Park, said he called the pyrotechnics company, asked if any other communities were doing a show, and if so, how were they managing it with the virus issues and the Phase 3 restrictions.

He was told Romeoville was doing a series of drive-in displays where social distancing would be in place to accommodate social distancing.

"It's not perfect, but considering what we have gone through, we need this. The entire county needs this."

Heitz said the park district has been through some tough times in the past few years, but they have changed their course and this is another example of some positive news.

"When Chairman Wheeler called me and asked if he could sponsor the fireworks and also find others to fund the show instead of taxpayers, I did my research, reported to the board and got approval. We are still in the business of recreational opportunities to our residents, and we are very excited about his one," Heitz said.

Heitz said hopefully spectators can grab some local drive-thru food and then park for the display. Parking areas open at 7:45 p.m. Fireworks are set to begin at approximately 9:15 p.m.

Heitz noted any extra money would go to the symphony, as the 4th of July show has been its annual fundraiser.

One of the fireworks' donors is CSL Behring in Bourbonnais Township.

"Collaboration within the community is what makes Kankakee County a great place to live, work and play," said Maureen Powell, CSL's spokeswoman.

Another sponsor, Dave Taylor, owner of Taylor Automotive Group in Bradley, said his business is always willing to partner in worthwhile community events.

"Let the show begin," he said.

The list of sponsors, in addition to Wheeler, CSL and Taylor Automotive are: On Top Exteriors, Keast Electric, Cash Works Inc., Pattern Development, State Sen. Patrick Joyce, State Rep. Lindsay Parkhurst, Kankakee County Republicans, Joe and Dawn Eaves, Kankakee Township Assessor Dave West, Standard Title, SERVPRO, David Wulff, King Music, Nugent-Curtis, David Bruce Toyota, Two Rivers Credit Union, County Beverages, Russell Johnson, Kankakee 3rd Ward Alderman Larry Osenga and David Crawford, Kankakee County Circuit Clerk Sandi Cianci, Kankakee County Sheriff Mike Downey, Kankakee County State's Attorney Jim Rowe, George Ryan Jr. Insurance, Iroquois Paving, Kankakee Valley Construction Co., Aqua Illinois, Judge Bill Dickenson, Kankakee County Coroner Bob Gessner, Kankakee County Clerk Dan Hendrickson, AFLAC's Aaron Dunnill, Kankakee Iroquois & Ford County Association of Realtors, AMITA Health St. Mary's Hospital, WVLI and the Daily Journal.

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